Is it difficult to achieve a native-like pronunciation as an adult language learner? The answer is: yes. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t achievable! It may take you some time and effort but I am here to assure you: IT IS POSSIBLE.
If you are interested in sounding more like a native-speaker I encourage you to start by getting acquainted with the culture of English-speaking countries, such as: United Kingdom (British culture) and United States (American culture). This way, you will begin to identify yourself with the members of that specific culture and, with practice, you will slowly start to ‘sound’ more like them.
Geography of English-speaking countries (See References).
When you are learning English, you may encounter sounds that are not part of the sound inventory of your own native language. At the beginning, most ESL students are not able to produce certain sounds because they have never exercised their mouths in that particular way before. It’s like going to the gym to lift weights for the first time, it ain’t easy!
Another reason is that the rules for combining sounds into words in English may be different in your first language. Moreover, patterns of stress and intonation, which determine the overall rhythm and melody of a language, can be transferred from your language into English. And to top it all, it is definitely possible that you are hearing English words through the sound system of your native language!
“It is as if learners hear the second language through a ‘filter’, the filter being the sound system of the native language.”¹
I know none of this sounds uplifting. However, these barriers can be overcome with PRACTICE.
It is perfectly understandable if you wish to improve your pronunciation in order to make yourself more comprehensible, but, at the same time, are not interested in sounding like a native-speaker.
“The achievement of fluent and eloquent intelligibility need not be at the expense of a proud and personal identity”.²
We should all remember that it is very important to preserve our own cultural identity. And, a ‘foreign’ accent is a marker of that identity. We should all feel proud of our accents!
Absolutely not. But, you do need to work on your pronunciation to find clarity, fluency and expression. If you can’t be understood by your listener, your thoughts and feelings will never be communicated.
In the Advanced Pronunciation Course we will work on your awareness, so you can determine what aspects of pronunciation you need to improve. Don’t forget: constant practice is crucial for your own improvement. Lastly, don’t be disheartened when it gets difficult. When an exercise is hard it is time to celebrate! It means that you have an opportunity to learn.
Photo by: Denis Linine
¹ Avery, P., & Ehrlich, S. (2019). Preliminaries to Teaching Pronunciation. In B. Collins, I. M. Mees, & P. Carley (Authors), Practical English Phonetics and Phonology: A Resource Book for Students (4th ed., p. 261). London: Routledge.
² Crystal, D. (2019). Teaching the Pronunciation of English. In B. Collins, I. M. Mees, & P. Carley (Authors), Practical English Phonetics and Phonology: A Resource Book for Students (4th ed., p. 270). London: Routledge.
Geography of English-speaking countries - With Flying Colours (2008). Retrieved August 23, 2020, from https://sites.google.com/site/withflyingcoloursherrera/home/maps